There’s a scenario, believe it or not, in which Scott Brown’s stunning win last night could actually end up forestalling a massive G.O.P. sweep next November. It involves Barack Obama swallowing his pride, behaving like a President who’s just been thumped, and making a very public show of internalizing the lessons of last night in Massachusetts. And it involves dismissing, immediately and with prejudice, the liberal fantasy that Rahm Emanuel should spend the next few weeks “knocking heads together” in the House, in the hopes of pushing the Senate bill through Congress.Obama ought to closet himself with every potential swing-vote Senator and congressman, hat in hand, to figure out if there’s some kind of Plan B on health care that could get passed in the next six months. There are plenty of ideas that the White House could draw on in this quest (risk pools, Medicaid expansions, anything from this Tyler Cowen list, etc.), and the final result could be sold, accurately, as an incremental alternative to the bloat of the current legislation. Then Obama could spend next year saying “message received, America” on health care, even as he picks fights with the G.O.P. on financial reform and a few other issues and waits for the economy to start adding jobs again. The goal would be to reassure a public that still likes him and still distrusts Republicans, but that clearly wants the Democrats to slow down, spend less, and face a few more curbs on their authority.
No. No. No. No. No.
The voters elected Barack Obama to pass comprehensive health care reform. One freak upset GOP victory in Massachusetts doesn't change that. The point of this reform process was not to waste a year of the nation's time only to give up when things get tough. Congress spent a whole damn year on healthcare. The Senate has a bill. It's done. The House can swallow that bill - it's not as good as the House's own bill, but it's a good bill nonetheless and it can get passed.
This is not the time to start listening to hand-wringers - either the gutless ones on the left or the opportunistic ones on the right, who want to scare Democrats into abandoning real reform efforts. It's time to finish this job.